Lillie Cole holds an “fun day” picnic for neighborhood senior citizens at her Brown Street home in Columbus. The event is just one of the many ways Cole serves her community through performing acts of kindness for the elderly people in her community. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
May 27, 2014 10:56:13 AM
Lillie Cole worked three jobs to support her three daughters and make sure they got a college education.
Two of them were in the Columbus Municipal School District, where the Columbus native worked for more than 25 years. She drove a school bus and worked in the cafeteria. She also was a caregiver for the elderly when she wasn't driving or feeding school children.
After retiring in 2006, seven years after moving to her house on Brown Street, Cole was looking for something to do. She's not one to sit. She had always enjoyed providing care for the elderly and lived close to Trinity Place Personal Care Center, so she began doing volunteer work for people in assisted living facilities.
"When I moved into this neighborhood I saw that there were a lot of elderly people, so I just went around and started doing community service and seeing if they needed me to do something for them," Cole said. "I'm a cheerful person. I just believe in spreading my joy, so I started talking to them and seeing if there were things I could do."
Those things include anything from clothing alterations to painting their fingernails. Grocery store trips are a regular Thursday activity for her. She's got 10 people between Trinity Village residents and her two brothers she gets groceries for each week. She tries to make sure they all get a hot, homemade meal each Saturday.
What she's most known for around East Columbus, though, is a picnic she puts on each year in her carport with the help of her daughters and a couple of former Hunt High School classmates (Class of 1965). Two dozen senior citizens gathered there five years ago in August. She sewed bibs for them and handed out door prizes. They played Bingo. It was a "fun day" for them, she says, and the appreciation they showed for it prompted her to make it an annual thing.
Now, she usually hosts the picnic some day during the second week in October. Last year, four dozen seniors were there.
"Practically all of them called me back and told me that they enjoyed it, so I decided I would start doing it every year," Cole said.
She holds a rummage sale at the first of every month to raise money to cook each week for "her seniors" and for the annual picnic. A few of her standards include baked and fried catfish, fried green tomatoes, spaghetti, okra and desserts like apple pies and peach cobbler.
"I try to give them, I guess they would say, soul food," she said.
Severe weather last April caused some damage to her home, which is being repaired, and being out of power for several days ruined all the food she had in her freezer. But there will still be a fifth "fun day" this year, she said.
"If I have my life and health, I'm definitely going to have it, because I'm going to spread my love," Cole said. "You can do anything when you've got love. I like to show the senior citizens that somebody loves them. You give them a hug and you let them know you care."
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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